I guess I'm back. I must mention that the U.S. Air Force Museum is the greatest thing ever, like they have huge experimental supersonic jets and spy planes and hydrogen bombs and the Vertijet and who knows what all else just stacked around where any random fool can see 'em! Furthermore, museum admission is free, and the food in the museum's cafeteria costed less and tasted better than any of the fast food I had on my trip. So to sum up: strongly recommended. I'm going to have to find another excuse to go back there. (I managed to avoid actually licking the XB-70, my new favorite aircraft; it was a close one, though. Honestly, I'm rather startled by the level of aviation geekery I'm now exhibiting because of that visit. I'd never thought it was a major part of my psyche before. In retrospect, all that obsessive Ace Combat 4 playing for months should have told me something.)
Hi there. There will be no blogging for the next several days, as I travel across the interstates of this great land of ours. I'm gonna spend a whoooole day at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio! Yay! And I'm going to return to my childhood haunt, Ohio State University, to further investigate my grandfather's possible career as a pulp science fiction author! Wow! And then I'm going to be back in Monmouth. Um.
Recently I've been enjoying Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne's latest story, Unreal Estate. You should too.
So how do we go on if the worst happens?
Naked partisanship dept.: Smart guys like Joshua Micah Marshall remind me why I'm a Democrat.
And nicely segueing from Washington politics, here's the rules of Calvinball.
Eeeeeeeee! The kraken wakes!
This fabulous new hand is perfect for the T-800 in the family.
The Mod Scene summed up in one cartoon.
It's The Deadly Follies of Stick Figure Warning Man and Family!
Need to make sure you don't sleep tonight? Read the novelette A Colder War by post-Vingean cyberpunk science fiction author Charlie Stross. Reflect on how lucky we were to only have global thermonuclear war to worry about. As an extra bonus, Generation X'ers get to play Spot the Indicted Reagan Administration Official!
Ah-heh. Many big words creating much hurting in head, hm? I'd been wanting to talk about The Current Situation for months now and the words finally came. Not particularily eloquent ones -- I'm no James Lileks -- but I'll let them stand. One thing I didn't really say is whether or not I'd favor this invasion of Iraq, and that's because I'm just not sure. It comes down to emotion in my case. On the one hand, death to our enemies; on the other hand, war is bad for children and other living things. These are two deeply human sentiments and they're both quite valid... picking and choosing when the stakes are this high is never easy. Of course, it's not like Donald Rumsfeld is sitting up in his office at nights waiting for my phone call.
Anyway, if we are gonna have this war, perhaps it'll be a good chance for the Pentagon to unleash our sinister fleet of black stealth airships!
On another topic, if you're like me (i.e., a big nerd) when you were a kid you watched a great show on PBS called Square One TV when you were supposed to be out shoplifting with your friends. Maybe you're up for some nostalgia? Knock yourself out.
Were you foolish enough to install the abomination that is the RealOne player? You poor bastard. To disable Real's "message center" and other awful features, you might try following these directions; I've already done so and will let you all know if it darkens my desktop again. Personally, I'd say that the only good reason to install RealAudio is so you can use its dynamic link libraries with the RealAudio plugin for WinAMP. The application itself is a crime against humanity.
This guy's name is Benjamin Blutstein. He was killed by Palestinian terrorists a few days back. It actually made the news over here in fat, happy America because the bombing took place at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and five of the seven dead were Americans. I didn't know this guy, or any of the others. It was later that day when I found out that Benjamin was the son of one of my father's friends and co-workers at Penn State University's Harrisburg campus.
Small world, huh? My father, his friend, his friend's son: three degrees of separation. Or is it zero? Ever since Palestinian violence accelerated after September 11th, I've thought a lot more about Israel; I've even considered maybe visiting, as a show of solidarity. Admittedly I'm not an observant Jew, but that hardly matters to the sort of folks who plant bombs in university cafeterias, does it? And so in some alternate universe not too far from ours I went there a few months back, was at the Hebrew University on July 31st, 2002, and was murdered, and now I'm a statistic too.
That sort of thought does contract the mind wonderfully. It could have been me, and it was poor Benjamin Blutstein. It made me very angry at the whole situation, at everything and everyone: at the terrorists, at the people who danced in the streets of Gaza after the bombing to cheer for the terrorists just like they did on 9/11, at the cowardly "leaders" of Palestine who have turned what could have been the most prosperous and advanced society in the Arab world into a vicious death cult, at the autocrats who rush to Washington to mouth platitudes of peace while they fund religious extremists at home, at every diplomat and UN bureaucrat who demands that the victims of terror just sit there and take it, at the tone-deaf media who insist on moral equivalence between the fire brigade and the fire. All of them. It was hard for me to think straight about the issue for several days, particularily as Benjamin's name and the others' were buried in the carnage of the next day and the next: when is this going to stop?
I cooled off eventually, but in the harsh light of day that's still a good question and one probably a lot of people would like an answer to. When is this going to stop?
Sharp right turn now. Today I read an article by David Warren, who if he isn't always right certainly sounds as if he's always right, in which he suggests an answer. War is going to stop it, or so Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has been assured by American president George W. Bush. Just hang tight until America invades Iraq, and then the chessboard will be well and truly overturned.
It makes sense. It does feel like war is in the air; I was thinking this several months ago, actually, when I noticed convoys of military trucks and Humvees rumbling around Midwestern freeways in a purposeful way. (Except for that one jeep that was parked by the side of the road with a bunch of soldiers standing around it consulting a map.) Now there's ships moving out of port, oil reserves built up, disinformation -- in the form of multiple contradictory war plans "leaked" from the Pentagon -- obediently printed above the fold in the New York Times. It could be interpreted as war, particularily if one was hoping for war.
Or maybe it's not. Maybe it's just ships and trucks moving around like they always do, and the "disinformation" merely a symptom of the general incompetence and bureaucratic infighting that's been characteristic of the Bush Administration since the day it assumed power. It just looks like an incredibly clever plan to people who aren't on the inside. As somebody who doesn't like seeing Israel -- which is, after all, a country full of people who look just like me, so you'll forgive a bit of ethnocentricity -- used as a punching bag, I'm worried by this possibility. The list of foreign peoples and nations who have suffered horribly because they were so foolish as to believe American promises is very, very long. Suppose Sharon is making the same mistake right now? Won't he feel stupid when the war never comes.
So the famed artist M. C. Escher once created a lithograph called Print Gallery. In the picture, a man is gazing at a painting in an art gallery in a Mediterranean town. But, the image bends itself around hypnotically such that the painting contains the town, the gallery, the man, and indeed itself. In the center of Print Gallery is a blank space containing the basic impossibility of the picture: an infinite recursion of town, gallery, man, and painting. Recently, some computer scientists decided to solve the puzzle and fill in the space Escher left empty. They discovered that Escher had (possibly unconsciously) imitated what is now a relatively well-known mathematical function when he planned out his drawing. So they used a computer to un-bend the image, filled in the gaps, and then re-bent it again back into the same format as Escher's picture. And, finally they, well, holy cow.
The Ten-Point Cruft Scale measures the slow decay of Windows 2000 machines over time. I think my own computer is at somewhere around 4.5 and rising. I've seen (and had to work with) machines at 7 and above; it's not pretty.